The "gates of hell" were upon firefighter Brendon O'Connor and his crew when the unthinkable happened - they ran out of water.
The Balmoral Village Rural Fire Brigade captain Brendon O'Connor said "everyone was fighting to stay alive" as they battled the Green Wattle Creek fire on Saturday, December 21.
The Balmoral firefighters were assisted by crews from nearby Mount Hunter, Lakesland and Douglas Park.
"Only four brigades in the village, not a lot of resources," Mr O'Connor recalled.
The captain said the situation still played on his mind weeks after the event.
"Being a village that's on tank water, it's very crucial for us to have as much water as we can," he said.
"We were there with very few resources for four-and-a-half, maybe five hours on our own. Until NSW Fire and Rescue brought in a pumper and the strike team.
"We hadn't given up at that point, but we were looking at what other options we had.
"We had pretty much used every other water supply in the village."
Many poly tanks in the village had melted in the fire, which eliminated "a big percentage" of crews' potential water supply.
The sights of the village in flames proved to be another challenge.
"You can't unsee what you've seen, particularly with that Saturday," Mr O'Connor said.
"There's just no way to describe it other than the gates of hell were upon us.
"When we ran out of water... that was horrendous."
While crews worked on the fire grounds, the station itself was under a "heavy ember attack".
"About 20 to 25 firefighters as well as residents had to bunker down in our fire station, which is our safer place in our village," he said.
"The sprinkler systems and everything else were in place."
Despite the challenges, Mr O'Connor said crews managed to save about 130 homes.
However he said his mind drifted to the homes they lost.
"Twenty houses is a massive loss. I still struggle with that every day," he said.
"I know we did everything we could but it was still on my watch. I will have to carry that."
Mr O'Connor expressed his gratitude to those who helped save the village.
"In particular those brigades that stood with us on that Saturday, without those guys we would've lost a lot more homes," he said.
"We can't thank Fire and Rescue enough for their support. Those guys came in and took up the fight, which was incredible.
"At that stage every one of the RFS vehicles were out of water."
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He also praised the assistance of the army and arborist contractors, that helped in the first few weeks after the fires.
Mr O'Connor said the brigade had received well-wishes from across Australia and the world.
"Even from Balmoral Castle in Scotland. They've got their own fire brigade and they sent messages of support," he said.
Teams of chefs have fed between 150 to 200 firefighters at multiple gatherings, with Vietnamese, Indian and Lebanese food on the menu.
"It's been absolutely beautiful, it's really shown the Australian spirit," he said.
However he said they have seen "red tape and roadblocks" from most levels of government as well as charities.
"They're still struggling to get most basic things in place such as mental health care or the clean up. It's just terrible, just so slow," he said.
"We've seen nothing in village for more than two weeks in terms of the clean-up, other than what residents are paying for themselves."
He said a clean-up within the village of dangerous trees was badly needed.
"We still have hundreds of dangerous trees still standing up over the roads, in every road in Balmoral," he said.
"A lot of them have been assessed, but there's still a lot of work that needs to be done."
He admitted some days were better than others, and many firefighters had spoken to counsellors.
"Firefighters, we're a funny breed, we'll try and stay as strong as possible because we need to be. It's a survival thing in us."
For help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. Visit the Beyond Blue website for more mental health resources.